Basic Pet Care

Top Topics to Discuss With Your Veterinarian at a Checkup

Vet Holding Kitten

Make sure all your pet's health issues are being addressed. Jot down a list before you go with any unusual changes you've noticed in your pet, including behavior, diet, or appearance. It's time to get answers!

Dogs and cats require annual physical exams by a veterinarian, and though it might seem tedious, especially if your pet is fit, this yearly visit to the doctor is a preventive step that can ensure that he lives a long and healthy life. In many cases, regular exams catch early warning signs of life-threatening diseases before they become critical. Also, some states require yearly vaccinations and/or registration, both easily acquired through your veterinarian.

  • New pet info – There’s a lot of information you need to share when bringing a new pet to the veterinarian. On your new pet’s first visit, office staff will register all of your pet’s information into a database. Tell your veterinarian any important details about your new pet’s history.
  • Overall health – During the exam, the veterinarian will screen your pet for overall health and probably ask you about your pet’s behavior, eating habits, defecating habits and activity level. If you’ve noticed anything unusual, bring it up now! This is a good time to check your notes.
  • Stool – On the appointment day, collect a fresh stool sample to take with you—the stool may be tested for parasites or other abnormalities. During your pet’s morning routine, gather a specimen with a plastic bag, and place it in a container marked with the date and time of collection. If you’ve noticed anything unusual about your pet’s stool or urine, you can discuss it during the health exam.
  • Vaccinations – Your veterinarian will administer vaccinations and boosters during the annual exam. These generally include distemper, adenovirus, and parvovirus for dogs and herpes virus, calici virus and panleukopenia for cats. A rabies vaccine should be given every one, two, or three years, depending on the protocols in your state. Depending on the lifestyle of your pet, other vaccinations may be necessary. This is a good time to ask your veterinarian for vaccination recommendations against illnesses such as Leptospirosis, Lyme disease, Bordetella (kennel cough), parainfluenza and canine influenza, or Feline Leukemia, Chlamydia and feline bordetella.
  • Parasite protection –Talk to the veterinarian about protecting your pet from parasites and parasite-borne illness. Depending on where you live and what time of year your visit is, certain parasites may be more common. For example, summer is heavy mosquito season, so talking with your veterinarian about heartworm may be important. During the fall, discuss tick control. Regardless of season, heartworm, tick and flea control may be a year-round discussion depending on where you and your pets reside.

At the end of the visit, think for a moment about anything else you want to ask the veterinarian. If there was something you didn’t understand, make sure to ask about it, or ask the office staff. On your way out, there’s usually a little bowl of doggie treats on the counter. Make sure to stop to give your pal a little snack—he deserves it.

Wendy Bedwell-Wilson writes about pet and lifestyle topics from her home in Hawaii, where she lives with two spoiled cats, an exuberant Pointer puppy, and her husband.